Linksys WRT1900AC Router Review
Wireless AC routers have been around for a while now with the first models hitting the market even before the spec had been finalised and officially signed off. There was no doubting that the initial products based on the technology were significantly faster than the Wireless N devices around and a number of manufacturers have since then refreshed their products to boost performance a little.
With their latest router Linksys are looking to push the Wireless AC market forward while also reaching back into the past for some design ideas. Today we take a look at their WRT1900AC router and find out how those two aspects mix.
Linksys package their WRT1900AC in a box which gives a nice clear view of the router design while also giving some key information about the features of the unit. Inside we find a manual/software, flat network cable and four screw-on antenna. These are provided along with the power supply which is a compact model, measuring around 10cm in length and featuring four rubber feet to provide stability on our surface.
The WRT 1900 AC
Those who have been playing with networking gear for a while now will immediately recognise the styling of the WRT1900AC… it is very much based around the WRT54G from a decade ago. We get that same blue front with black back and while the older model had some perforations Linksys use more on this model to assist the internal fan in cooling the device. On the base we get more perforations along with four large rubber feet and the front panel has plenty of status LEDs. One for power and each LAN port, others for the Wireless status and USB/eSATA ports.
Turning round to the back of the WRT1900AC we find a couple of the antenna connectors, sync button, four Ethernet ports (GB), our Internet port, USB 3.0, USB 2.0/eSATA combo, reset, power in and a power switch.
Our four bundled dipole antenna (3.8dBi gain, 21dBm power on 5GHz) attach to the sides and back of the unit and can be angled to suit our needs. In terms of key specifications the WRT1900AC offers the four antennas (which can be upgraded) along with 1.2GHz dual core ARM processor, 128MB Flash and 256MB DDR3 which helps power the routers ability to run the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands with speeds of 600Mbps (2.4GHs)/1300Mbps (5GHz). We also get support for WEP 64/128-bit, WPA2-Personal/Enterprise and WPS along with DLNA/FTP a 2-year warranty to back it all up.
The first thing that we have to note about the WRT1900AC is that it supports Open WRT firmware. What does that mean? Basically it allows users to create custom firmware which adds to the features provided by Linksys, or tweaks particular aspects to suit the needs of various consumer groups. Also worth noting is the ability to switch this router to be an extender/bridge.
So what of the stock software? Well that starts with a nice, simple, setup wizard which walks us through the basic connection and admin of the router. We create a Smart-WiFi account during this browser based process and Linksys also check for and apply the latest firmware to ensure we are completely up to date on day 1.
Once we have created our accounts, connected to the internet and updated the router (a process which takes just a few minutes) we are presented with the web based configuration screens. In theory the router will run fine with the defaults but it is always worth looking round these panels to see what extra tweaks may suit us.
In terms of key features that we noted in the software, Linksys offer three screens of particular note. The first is media prioritisation which allows us to tune traffic to offer the best performance. For example if we have multiple devices on our network, we can set one to get the best streaming quality for videos so that if someone else is downloading a massive file it wont impact our watching experience. We can also tailor the router to prioritise individual games such as League of Legends and enable device based parental controls along with firewall rules.
Added to this are various apps which Linksys offer for Android and iOS. Aspects of these apps allow remote access while others allow us to privately share content via Facebook or block activity and monitor our network.
User Experience and Conclusion
Starting off with the hardware, for enthusiasts, it will be hard to dislike the retro styling of the WRT1900AC. Many “normal” people will argue that the bright blue stands out too much for some environments but that is probably the point. This is a router that tries to blend modern styling with making a statement and we love it.
Inside the cool casing we get some top notch components which require active cooling but that isn’t too much of an issue because from the moment the WRT1900AC is turned on it gives fantastic performance. The software never lags, the wireless signal is as strong and fast as we have seen and network speeds across wired connections are crazy. We could quote figures but that varies so wildly for every consumer… from person to person, device to device etc so what we will say is that in our testing like for like, the WRT1900AC offered three times the speed of our Netgear R6300 (also a modern, AC spec router).
The software is also a highlight. It looks great, where other manufacturers offer admin panels which often look like an afterthought. The support of Open WRT means we have great flexibility and the base functionality offers everything most users would need from firewall rules to guest access and on into media/gaming configuration. We were also pleased to note that compatibility was fine, all our devices including Android, Windows, smart TV, consoles and Chromecast units all worked without issue.
With its 2-year warranty, excellent software, phenomenal performance and great flexibility the Linksys WRT1900AC is the best router we have used to date.
|Where to buy…|
|Amazon.com – £229.98|
|Linksys.com – $249.99|